ply me a river

Posted on Posted in projects, spinning and fiber

today was a great spinning day. i got up early enough to start spinning before my class arrived and got back to work on the lincoln/corriedale/nylon sock yarn i started ages ago (i took a break to spin a couple of other fibers in rhinebeck and plied those last week). i had just a little bit left to spin and by the time class was over i had two bobbins that looked equal and a third small bobbin that i’d spun heavier for sock heels (i might actually be getting smart about this as time goes on).

i finished just before everyone left, sides aching from all the laughing we did (don’t ask; i can’t even remember what was so funny, but we were so loud and raucous that susan got concerned we’d wake david. heh, not likely).

i picked up a little bit and then sat back down at the wheel to ply the whole batch. the day was cold and drizzly—it stayed above freezing all day, but it was one of those times i wished it would just snow instead. the trees are stripped bare, just days after i posted those pictures of them in full color. it’s dreary enough, you know?

so i grabbed another cup of coffee and set to work on the plying. i’ve been really careful spinning this yarn; i’m out to make a better sock yarn that will last maybe a bit longer. to that end, i chose a fiber blend with some long fiber (lincoln) for strength and carded in some nylon for added durability. i spun this blend worsted style with lots of twist so it would be more compact and smooth. i tried to be equally careful to ply it smoothly and tightly, making sure the fibers aligned in the final yarn.

a lot of the active twist had left the singles (it’s been on the wheel for weeks now), so it looks very overplied in the photo above (it’s the bigger skein on top). it took a while to get through what looked like two half-bobbins. then i plied the heavier heel yarn.

it’s just a bit thicker—not much—i’ll probably notice it more in the knitting. i overplied this one just a bit too; i figure it can’t hurt. i ended up with 400 yards of sock yarn and 50 yards of heel yarn—plenty for a good pair of man socks.

once i had this batch plied i was finally ready to wash all the skeins i completed in the last week. i soaked them all together in a dishpan for a couple of hours (while i took a nap), then rinsed them, bagged them and put them through my washer’s handwash cycle. it’s gentle and it spins them out well; i like to use it for larger batches of yarn (squeezing the moisture out of more than a couple skeins at a time is really hard on my hands and uses too many towels!).

now they are hanging on the drying rack and looking very well. i think i’m getting better at figuring the right amount of ply twist than i used to be. all of these skeins looked way overtwisted when they went into the wash, but they are all hanging straight and true now that they’ve had a bath, with the exception of the heel yarn which is a little overplied (and that’s ok i think).

yesterday i was out of town all day teaching an advanced lace knitting workshop in powell, OH at a tangled tale yarn shop. we had twelve lovely participants who came to work through a mini lace shawl project incorporating advanced lace knitting skills. the shop is six months old and owner, doreen grener, was a fun and generous host along with her lovely mom, elaine.

i was foolishly too shy to take pictures for the blog ( i know—what came over me??), so suffice it to say that a good time was had by all, and i think we enjoyed the day fully. there was a lot of hard work, a god lunch and a dog-and-pony show as i unpacked and talked about each of the shawls i brought along (plus scarves, plus socks).

powell has some awesome knitters, too. martha amazed us all with her knitting speed, anne wowed me with two shawls that she designed (i nearly swooned over the one she has on the needles now), and i might have stared too much at lauren who knits left-handed, which i cannot do at all, no matter how much i try, so i find it completely fascinating (i made her sit next to me).

then i drove home and worked on my new sock for the whole evening (i just realized i am talking way too much and not showing enough photos—sorry!)

i’ve actually had this on the needles since i was in new mexico, but i didn’t want to show it until i had enough done that you could really get a feel for the whole picture. this is the sock i’m designing for the fearless fibers sock club december installment. deb sent me her new tight-twist merino sock in this incredibly rich purple-meets-brown colorway

and i instantly saw scrolled woodwork and a cozy fire in it. i looked for a stitch that resembled knotted wood or carved ornament and smoke curls. then i remembered a stitch pattern i’ve had earmarked for years that i’ve never had a chance to work with. it’s a wide panel and it doesn’t fit well into just any garment—however, it was just right for half the width of a sock. here’s the view down the back of the leg and heel

i’ve swatched it with many a yarn but it was hard to get the texture to look defined enough for me. so i thought this hi-twist yarn might do the trick and i like it. the pattern is not nearly as complicated as it looks—it has no cables; just lots of increasing and decreasing.

now i just need to write up the pattern so vanessa can test it. and knit my second sock. yay.

friday i went on a little field trip with debby and susie to wooster to look at two yarn shops i hadn’t visited previously. i’d been working so hard to get caught up that it felt especially nice to be free of the computer for a day. in the car i worked on david’s grandpa sock and got most of that first one done. then i spent the afternoon knitting with debby in her sun room and watching the deer and the rain on the lake. i worked on my wiggle hat

i ripped back some of the 3-inch ribbing i had done because i decided i wanted the cables to start sooner. now it has about 1.5 inches of rib instead and the cables will begin down low, near the earlobe (that will make the hat warmer, too). it’s going to be sooo cozy and warm; i can’t wait.

still, this is a lightweight hat—i’m going to need a much heavier one for the deep cold of january and february. i have some ideas that i’ll talk about later this week.

look what someone left at my house this week . . . .

a completed casino shawl in fearless fibers cashmere laceweight (exotic wood colorway). i want to think that susie left it here because she loves me so much, but actually, we are going to block it in class tomorrow afternoon, and it’s here because i need to soak it ahead of time (drat.).

susie started this one in january and got off to a sporadic start due to a series of family emergencies and other life events (she still knitted through them all, but not on the shawl). then, a couple of months ago, she got back on the wagon and before we all knew it, casino was done.

that’s how it is with this shawl. in the beginning the work sorta crawls; you have to be a bit patient. the stitch count decreases as you knit from top to point, and suddenly, a couple of repeats in, you realize the rows are going more quickly. the time for each row literally decreases geometrically—once you pass the halfway point you are flying. you can’t help but finish it.

we’ll take some pictures for you once it’s stretched and pinned, and post them tomorrow or tuesday. and of course, when it’s dry, susie will owe me some modeling shots, hehe.

22 thoughts on “ply me a river

  1. Everything is so lovely, but the sock pattern and yarn especially make my little heart pitter patter!

  2. Love the stitch pattern on the sock – a good combination of yarn & pattern – really reminds me of wood & fire.

  3. I’m not usually a fan of lace socks, but I really like that one!

    Does Wooster still have that excellent used bookstore downtown?

  4. I really love the sock – you may have mentioned it, but is there any chance you will be releasing it separate from the club eventually?

  5. I hope the pattern for those socks will eventually leak out to the rest of us… I just bought some yarn this weekend that would look great in it!

  6. The spinning is so interesting; I should never have sold my wheel. I just never thought I would get into it, but now, I want it back! The sock is going to be great! Love it. Did you ever visit the Button House in Wooster? I think that’s where it is.

  7. Wow! You’ve been busy, busy, busy. Where to start?

    Good plan for the socks. I think the lincoln will wear very well, and the addition of the nylon certainly won’t hurt a bit. Hope he’ll get a lot of wear from those.

    As usual, I love Deb’s colorways. Gorgeous sock and while I’m not really a yellow fan – the Exotic Wood is beautiful!

  8. Anne- If we ever meet, I will teach you the 2 handed technique that Fair Islers use, and you’ll see how left-handed stranding works.

    I keep forgetting about Casino- it’s one of your classics and absolutely gorgeous.

    Love the socks and the handspun.

  9. Beautiful socks! This might be presumptious, but I learned it in Patsy Z’s class so thought I’d share (even if you know, some spinning readers might not). To plan for your plying twist when the singles might not be fresh, make a little sample while spinning. Spin out about two feet, fold it over and pinch, let it ply on itself then tie that off, break it off and save it as a control sample for balanced plying twist later (or judging how much extra twist for a slight over ply). Works great even if the singles have been spun over period of time or have been sitting for a while.

  10. Ooh, ooh!! I *adore* those socks!! Is it possible to just get one installment of that sock club? ‘Cause I think I have to… The spinning looks wonderful, too — isn’t it great when the long-laid plans for making perfect yarn work out?

  11. I’m sadly behind on my blog-reading (the kids were sick last week, hubby was away.. your basic nightmare). I LOVE those socks. They have a very “vintage” feel to me.

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